Drew Faust, the President of Harvard, devoted her commencement speech to free speech at Harvard and universities in general. First, she defended its centrality to a university’s mission of free inquiry; second, she asked why it had become such a contentious issue in recent years; and third, she made suggestions to strengthen it for the future. She deserves credit for the vigorous defense in the first part of her remarks at time when many university Presidents are missing in action. But the rest of her speech was shallow.
For instance, she suggested that it is the decline of religious, class and ethic homogeneity that has led to a renewed debate over the value of speech: “Once overwhelmingly white, male, Protestant, and upper class, Harvard College is now half female, majority minority, religiously pluralistic, with nearly 60 percent of students able to attend because of financial aid. Fifteen percent are the first in their families to go to college.”
Here she substantially exaggerates the homogeneity of the Harvard past, at least the past of four decades ago when I was a student.
Since Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the U.S. Supreme Court has viewed itself as the enlightened molder of social consensus, leading the recalcitrant political branches to reach progressive outcomes demanded by social justice. Sometimes (as with desegregation) the Court manages to get in front of the parade of public opinion, and sometimes (as with same-sex marriage) the Court forces unruly voters to accept a particular end result. But, as with abortion, sometimes the Court miscalculates, becoming enmired in an intractable political dispute. And in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978), the Court—fueled by the conceit of its superior wisdom—divined a “solution” to disparate race enrollments in higher education that has proven to be a quagmire.
Conservative critics regularly assail the University of California for its cartoonish devotion to diversity and the latest fads in political correctness. Mocking UC is practically Heather Mac Donald’s beat at City Journal and UC President Janet Napolitano’s recent campaign against “microaggressions”—including the allegedly offensive statement “America is the land of opportunity”—was roundly condemned by commentators across the spectrum, even the left-leaning Los Angeles Times. We expect as much from California, led by Governor Moonbeam, but what are we to make of the University of Texas at Austin’s increasingly desperate attempt to follow in UC Berkeley’s footsteps?
What does it mean to turn politics into an exercise of compassion? That’s the question William Voegeli invites us to consider in his latest book The Pity Party. He bids us to the same conclusion, but in policy and political terms, that our parents once gave us: pity parties are a guilt trip. Of course, the particular politics Voegeli is discussing emerges from the sense of injustice and unfairness that modern liberals everywhere perceive. Their primary motivation, however, is to relieve their own inner discomfort. Their compassion, even more problematically, is disconnected from any real notion of virtue or individual…
Tim Groseclose has confirmed that he is one of America’s leading conservative commentators with the publication of Cheating: An Insider’s Report on the Use of Race in Admissions at UCLA. It may seem an odd role for Groseclose, for six years the Marvin Hoffenberg Chair of American Politics at UCLA and a quantitative social scientist whose innovations are widely recognized (see the list of publications on his website). He has achieved academic plaudits while openly declaring his Rush Limbaugh-listening and other rightwing proclivities.
To fully appreciate Cheating, we should start by discussing Left Turn, Groseclose’s earlier popular work about liberal media bias. Such critiques (as well as exposées of race preference in academia) are legion, but he devises formal models to measure the extent of bias or discrimination that enables all sorts of instructive comparisons. He establishes PQ measurements (political bias) of counties, cities, politicians, and media outlets. His website even contains instructions on how to calculate your own PQ.
W. B Allen’s essay impresses upon us how different our understanding of civil rights is from that of the Founders and the authors of the Fourteenth Amendment. Back then “civil rights”referred to our most fundamental rights, those closely tied to and only slightly more expansive than our natural rights. Today most of us think of the right to vote as one of our most important civil rights, the one that protects all the others. But in 1870 Congress enacted the Fifteenth Amendment to protect this central political right, which was generally assumed not to be covered by the Fourteenth. Since the…
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 banned much government and private-sector discrimination, mostly on the basis of race and ethnicity (“color” was specified in addition to “race,” and “national origin” was the term used instead of the now-more-common “ethnicity”), but often on the basis of religion, too, and sometimes on the basis of sex as well. There were eleven titles in the 1964 Act. The key ones were Title II (public accommodations), IV (school desegregation), VI (federally funded programs), and VII (employment). The others were I (voting), III (public facilities), V (expanding the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights), VIII (compilation of…